With the very real possibility of facing a major legal battle with the city of Augusta over the conditions of the former J.C. Penney building and the former Bayou restaurant, you would think that downtown property owner Bonnie Ruben would try to keep a low profile.
Last month, Ruben apparently decided it was a good idea to hire former WGAC on-air personality Scott Hudson as her new operations manager.
This, despite the fact he was recently arrested over the Fourth of July for allegedly operating a vessel under the influence and not wearing a personal floatation device.
Well, apparently, the working relationship between the two quickly soured because this week Hudson posted a message on the Augusta Today’s Facebook page that got quite a bit of attention.
“You may have noticed that I discontinued the BJ’s On Broad FB page. There is a reason,” he wrote, adding that Ruben had asked him to do things that he found “unethical.”
“I am no longer employed at the Ramada Hotel and happy to be out of that atmosphere,” Hudson wrote. “Here is what led to my departure: Ms. Ruben wanted me to launch an attack campaign against (downtown business owners) Coco Rubio and David Hutchison.”
Hudson then posted the text of an email that Ruben allegedly sent him. Here is what it said:
“What I think we really need to do is some ‘investigative’ reporting on Coco. Let’s start checking on his business – how much does he make, does he pay his bills, do his buildings meet the fire code….does he have the proper fire exits – maybe we need to send some ‘anonymous’ letters to the fire inspector to check these things. How thoroughly do they check IDs at the door – have they ever let underage customers in?
“All of that would be very interesting – does he properly report all of his liquor sales – betcha a lot of that loose cash goes right into his pocket. Let’s start talking to some of his ‘friends’ to get the inside ‘scoop’ on this arrogant piece of crap. Your investigative skill could ‘uncover’ some interesting details about this self serving jerk.”
Now, a quick reminder, this is the same woman who the Augusta Commission unanimously appointed a few months ago to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency, a body that may soon be tasked to consider issuing bonds to help fund redevelopment projects in downtown Augusta.
And now she is wanting someone to write anonymous letters to the fire inspector to try to close the doors on Rubio’s popular downtown bars?
Great choice for a URA member, Augusta commissioners. Nice job.
But Ruben doesn’t stop there.
She also targets David Hutchison, owner of The Book Tavern on Broad Street.
“David Hutchison is another one – they pushed Jai West out of her space at the White’s building by raising her rent to an extravagant amount – she was just starting to break even and then they basically threw her out – it was such a shame. Then she is replaced by Hutchison – someone selling used books – how does he pay the rent? Let’s see if we can uncover some of the skeletons in their closets – I’ll bet there are plenty. Is it true that he’s Laura Plocha’s brother??? Did she ever repay the Imperial Theater for the missing money – what exactly happened with all of that. Maybe that’s how he opened the bookstore.
“How many books can you sell on Broad Street – do the likes of these crapheads even know how to read? Please start ‘thinking’… You now have a ‘new’ project!”
If your mind isn’t reeling after reading Ruben’s remarks, then you must not care a thing about downtown Augusta.
Ruben is in the fight of her life over two of her vacant buildings on Broad Street and she is struggling to maintain the Ramada Plaza and Ruben’s Department Store, but she wants to focus her attention on launching an attack on two successful downtown business owners?
How twisted is that?
Many people on the Augusta Today’s Facebook page were shocked by her remarks and called it “absolute blasphemy.”
But Ruben also had her defenders.
Even one with name recognition: former Augusta Commissioner Andy Cheek.
What he wrote was equally shocking.
“Bonnie and I have not always been friends. As a new commissioner I launched an initiative to clean up abandoned buildings on Broad Street, and was very hard on Bonnie in particular,” Cheek wrote. “As time passed I began to notice that she was not as big a problem as some of the other major property owners downtown… What I discovered was that while Bonnie received the full brunt of code enforcement, and fire department inspections while other property owners were given a pass.”
Cheek wrote that Ruben had some legitimate questions about the missing money from the Imperial Theatre, but he then turned his comments to Rubio.
“Coco has always been the token minority friend for all the guilty white breads and he has a catchy name,” Cheek wrote. “He has on many occasions stuck himself into the public arena and has more than once been the front man on initiatives like, dated ‘Respect Downtown’ and been very quick to cast condescending comments on any idea that is not his own. If the two mentioned in the email are clean they should have no problem opening their books and doors.”
At that point, Rubio joined the conversation on the Augusta Today’s Facebook page.
“All this because I applauded the idea of the city doing something about her neglected properties on broad street?” Rubio wrote. “That’s cool – I have nothing to hide.”
One person sarcastically replied, “Coco Rubio, glad to know you are the token minority friend for the guilty white breads.”
“Me too…” Rubio responded.
Jokes continued with people posting comments like, “Amos and Andy Cheek.”
Cheek responded by saying, “Remember I was the sixth black commissioner,” referring to his first term as commissioner when he often sided with the five black commissioners on the board during key votes.
Really, Andy Cheek?
You are a former representative of the city.
You might as well just wrote, “I have a black friend, so I can use the n-word.”
To Rubio’s credit, he stuck to the issue at hand, which was addressing the neglected properties in downtown Augusta.
“There are new inspectors going around downtown and I support their efforts,” Rubio wrote. “All property owners should be held responsible in making sure their buildings are up to code.”
By the next morning, Hudson’s post and all the comments were taken off the Augusta Today’s Facebook page.
But the damage was already done.
Ruben’s planned attack against Rubio and Hutchison was the talk of downtown.
Many people wondered how Ruben could ever show her face on Broad Street again?
A Metro Spirit reporter contacted Ruben to get her side of the story.
Ruben responded in a written statement explaining the e-mail she sent Hudson regarding Rubio and Hutchison.
“This is a very sad situation as Scott Hudson is a very troubled individual,” she wrote. “He failed to add the first part of the email where he is telling me that Coco is ‘ripping’ me and that ‘Coco is such an ass!’ as well as many other things he said in an attempt to win my approval.”
Ruben wrote that hiring Hudson was a mistake on her part.
“He came to me asking for a job….he had little or no real experience but he said he wanted a career change and loved the hotel/restaurant business and had worked in restaurants,” she wrote. “He also prevailed on my positive relationship with his deceased grandmother who had worked at Ruben’s for many years. She was a very fine lady and she would be quite troubled with what Scott has turned out to be.”
She continued to call Hudson some names that the Insider does not believe are fit for print, but she did insist that Hudson used “his radio reporting skills to remix words and to solicit responses that benefit his agenda.”
“I had already told him on Monday, July 28, that his trial period was not working out because he lacked the skill set necessary to do any kind of job in either the restaurant or hotel side of the business,” Ruben wrote. “He became very distraught and begged for some additional time to prove he could become a valuable employee….once again the positive memories of his grandmother were used to prevail upon me.
“The conversation in the confidential email he printed were in response to his telling me many things about certain people who have continued to try to diminish my reputation and how he could help to get those issues resolved. So in a very cunning and unethical manner he enticed me into this response. When I confronted him with the fact that he had no experience or skills in operating a restaurant he turned to his networking abilities and connections with those in the local bar scene.”
Ruben said that she was “foolish” for hiring Hudson without thoroughly checking his background.
“When I told him again on Thursday that things just weren’t working out he said, ‘Thanks for the opportunity. I really am heartbroken that it did not work out. I wish you all the best,’” Ruben wrote, adding that the next day he began posting the “untruthful nasty accusations.”
She also added that any accusations Hudson made regarding the standards at her hotel and restaurant are completely false.
“And just to set the record straight, our restaurant had received at least the last 10 health department ratings in the 90-98 point range and on that same day, the very same inspector gave our housekeeping department a perfect 100 point rating! You are more than welcome to check the records.”
So, there is Ruben’s side of the story.
Whether you believe Ruben was duped or not by Hudson, that’s beside the point.
She has admitted to making statements that she wanted to investigate two downtown business owners in hopes of harming their reputations.
At the very least, Ruben needs to step down from her position on the URA board.
Augusta doesn’t need a representative like that participating in the redevelopment of downtown.
Instead, Ruben needs to concentrate on her own properties and leave the rest of Broad Street alone.